Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month Blog – Jenny Yang

By Shahana Gaur

Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month Blog – Jenny Yang

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, where we bring much-needed attention to the most fatal gynecological cancer – ovarian cancer. This month provides the opportunity to learn more about the disease, as well as raise funds and awareness.

We sat down with Jenny Yang, an Obstetrician Gynaecologist from Australia currently undertaking a Fellowship in Global Women’s Health and Equity with the University of Toronto. We discussed her work here at Humber, as well as why this month is so important.

Could you describe what you do here at Humber?

Whilst undertaking my fellowship program, I am working at Humber River Hospital to do obstetric call shifts, so that I can continue delivering babies (a privilege which I love!) and gain further experience in caring for the unique, and at times complex, patient population that are cared for at Humber.

Why did you decide to train at Humber River Hospital?

My goal is to be an Obstetrician Gynaecologist well equipped to work in low resource settings and remote areas, where women often lack preventative and routine antenatal care, present with complex conditions and late complications of pregnancy, and support to manage challenging clinical cases is limited. Humber River Hospital has a large new migrant population, which presents some of the aforementioned challenges, as well as highly experienced Obstetrician Gynaecologists from whom I hope to learn skills with which to manage such situations.

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, what message do you have to the community in terms of preventative measures, screening etc.?

Ovarian cancer is sadly not uncommon, affecting 1 in 78 women in their lifetime. Unfortunately, there is no effective form of population screening yet, although there are some strategies that can help prevent and minimise the consequences of ovarian cancer. For women who are having a tubal ligation for contraceptive reasons, removal of the whole tube (salpingectomy) instead can opportunistically reduce their lifetime risk of ovarian cancer, as evidence has emerged that much of ovarian cancer actually originates from the fallopian tubes. We also recommend that if a woman is having her uterus removed (hysterectomy) for other reasons, that we perform concurrent salpingectomy for this reason as well, as this extra step has added benefit with minimal increase in surgical complexity and risk. There is evidence to suggest the combined oral contraceptive pill can reduce one’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer as well.

For women who may have a BRCA 1 or BRCA2 mutation, commonly known to be hereditary genetic mutations that increase risk of breast cancer (among other cancers), surgically removing both fallopian tubes and ovaries before cancer can arise in them (prophylactic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy) can be considered in discussion with a Gynaecological Oncologist to prevent ovarian cancer. It must be noted that this would lead to early menopause and menopause-associated complications, indicating the need for an in-depth discussion about this decision. Women with a history of such cancers in their family should seek a medical review to see if they should be tested for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations so that if either of these are identified, they can be counselled appropriately regarding the option for further preventative measures.